Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York (Hardcover)

Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

By Kai Wright

Beacon Press, 9780807079683, 240pp.

Publication Date: January 15, 2008



Drifting Toward Love tells the stories of Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends, young gay men of color desperately searching for life's basic necessities: homes that provide more than shelter and security against more than violence or disease. As these teenagers navigate the rocky waters of adolescence, they wade through pains and passions that are typical of any young person coming of age. But they do so with few resources-material or emotional-in a world where the cards are stacked against their success.

Journalist Kai Wright paints vivid, intimate portraits of these young men's sometimes tragic, often heroic lives. Manny is a working-class city kid making awkward teenage discoveries about his sexuality. In a troubled relationship with his mother and a stifling, combative school environment, he clumsily elbows out enough space to find himself. In the process, he and best friend Jason move from a budding love based on videogames and music to a troubled bond held together by drugs and sex for money. In one devastating instant, Manny will realize the demons Jason truly faces. Out of the wreckage of the life he builds with Jason, Manny drifts into an explosive social movement, fighting for public space for queer youth, and finds his calling as an activist.

Julius's story, meanwhile, is a classic New York tale: a young, dynamic gay man flees his rural home, seeking freedom in the big city. With no one to help guide his journey in New York, however, Julius never finds his footing, tumbling rapidly through homelessness, hustling, and drug abuse. He gradually confesses that his primary goal remains elusive: discovering love, and holding on to it.

Wright finds Julius in a gay-friendly shared house in a rough spot on the east side of Brooklyn. Carlos considers that same house a lifesaver, an unlikely safe haven in the middle of his childhood neighborhood, but he must balance his efforts at independence with the growing demands of his large Puerto Rican family, in which he serves as the lynchpin.

In Drifting Toward Love, Wright tells these stories and more, weaving in years of reporting on the broader social, economic, and political dynamics that box in gay men of color as they come into their own. By the end, a powerful and sometimes troubling story has unfurled that offers a unique and vital snapshot of the often overlooked lives of young people like Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends.


Kai Wright is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in Essence, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and the Village Voice. He is also publications editor for the Black AIDS Institute and author of two previous books on African American history.

Praise For Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

"As compelling a page turner as the tensest thriller and as emotionally rich as the sweetest love story. Kai Wright lets the bravery, resilience, and creativity of these teenagers shine through every page. The hardships they face will make you angry; their heroism will inspire you. Drifting Toward Love is social commentary at its very best."—John D'Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

"Kai Wright's Drifting Toward Love bears the mark of a literary masterpiece, reading more like a work of fiction than journalism. Yet, the lives he chronicles are not fiction but rather the very real, complicated, and often tragic stories of gay male youth of color in New York. These young men’s stories and Wright’s rendering of them compel us all to reconsider our judgments about 'at risk' kids and remind us of the resilience of the human spirit.—E. Patrick Johnson, author of Appropriating Blackness

"Kai Wright’s journalistic talents give much-needed voice to the struggles of queer youth of color in New York. The stories unfold passionately, without judgment, to reveal the common adversity we endure and are challenged with as gay men of color trying to survive and reclaim our space in this city. Resonating with genuine realness, each account celebrates an inspiring journey and leaves us with hope for the future of our community."—poet Emanuel Xavier, author of Americano and editor of Bullets & Butterflies

"Kai Wright has precisely diagnosed the dysfunction of homophobia. Group homes, support groups and community-organizing efforts described in this book demonstrate practical ways to counter negative effects of continued prejudice toward GLBT teenagers."—Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General

"This book is sure to touch young men and women everywhere who are still negotiating their sexuality. Most importantly, it reassures them that they are not alone. But Drifting Toward Love is also a valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand the difficult choices we all make in coming of age."—Keith Boykin, author of Beyond The Down Low: Sex, Lies and Denial in Black America

"Not every at-risk youth escapes the physical and emotional devastation of life on the streets, but Wright's portrait of a few who have is a tonic."—Richard Labonte, Book Marks

"Wright's greatest strength is his ability to take what could be a series of after-school specials and find the truth behind the set-ups." —Washington Blade, January 10th, 2008

"...intimate, at times heart-wrenching look at three young gay men of color who struggle to find a place-a bed to sleep in as well as a scene that allows them to be themselves without fear..."—Time Out New York, January 17th, 2008

"A compelling look at underreported lives."—Out magazine